Conflict in literature
Common core standards
- Kindergarten With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.3
- Grade 1 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.1.3
- Grade 2 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.3
- Grade 3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3
- Grade 4 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions) CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.3
- Grade 5 Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact) CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.3
- Grade 6 Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.3
- Grade 7 Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot) CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.3
- Grade 8 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.3
- Grade 9-10 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
Conflict is at the heart of every story. The most basic way to introduce conflict in stories is through problem—solution. Problem solution is an effective way to introduce plot to even very young students
- Scholastic Problem Solution Organizer has students record the problem, events and resolution.
Somebody Wanted But So
The “Somebody—Wanted—But-- So” mnemonic discussed in Inference works well to help students figure out the conflict in the story.
- Somebody: Who is this story about?
- Wanted: What did they want?
- But: What got in their way?
- So: What happens?
- Sanchez Class has a cutesy (there’s pink) graphic organizer for this
Types of conflict
There is no plot without conflict. Conflict defines the plot. There are (generally) four types of possible conflict:
- Character vs. Character
- Character vs. Self
- This is when a character is having trouble deciding between this or that or a character is struggling with making a decision about something.
- Jane couldn’t decide whether she should break up with her boyfriend.
- Character vs. Nature
- The conflict in this story might be with the weather (like a blizzard or extreme heat) or against natural disaster.
- Character vs. Society
- The conflict might be with racism or another society level issue.
- Some people also teach Character vs. Machine and Character vs. Supernatural as literary conflicts, although they are less common.
Jim Van Pelt argues that a conflict has three parts; “someone wants something, something stands in the way, and something of value is to be gained or lost.” 
- ReadWriteThink Conflict Type Chart has columns for each of the conflict types.
- ReadWriteThink’s Conflicy Map asks students what the conflict is, why it occurs and how it could be resolved. They also have an interactive version of the same map.
- Scholastic Plot and Conflict Organizer is a slightly hard to figure out organizer. Students check off the type of conflict, tell the problem, the character’s goal and the resolution.
- Kims Korner Conflict Map has the four types of conflict with illustrations, examples and definitions for each.
- ReadWriteThink Using Picture Books to Teach Conflict and Plot is an entire unit on how to introduce the different types of conflict to upper elementary students with graphic organizers, interactive, and lesson plans.
- ReadWriteThink Examing Plot Conflict is a lesson series on conflict types with powerpoints, graphic organizers, detailed lesson plans and book suggestions for each plot type.
- Scholastic Lesson Plan What is the Problem? is a complete lesson plan for middle school. The lesson plan includes a powerpoint, exit slip, links to the story, “On the Sidewalk Bleeding”, and resources on using the story to teach conflict types.
- Chelsea Niksson on Curriki Differentiating Between Different Types of Conflict has good language for explaining the different conflict types. She also has word documents with different scenarios so students can practice recognizing the different types of conflict.
- Conflicts in Literature from Trinity University is seven separate lessons on conflict in literature. Unfortunately, none of the other materials like articles are included so it is only useful for a general overview of how to set up a unit.
Cyber games and activities
|Quizlet Internal and External Conflict has flashcards with the word definitions and then two games (Scatter and Space Race) that can be played using those definitions.|
|Quizlet Conflict has definitions of the different types of conflict in literature and two games (Scatter and Space Race) that can be played with those definitions.|
|Quia Internal and External Conflict is pretty dry. Students read a quick passage and decide if internal or external conflict is being shown.|
- Setting and Conflict is a short worksheet with two passages. One is followed by questions about the setting, the other by questions about the conflict.
- Virginia Department of Education has a one page middle school worksheet that has students read a brief paragraph and decide what type of conflict is being shown.
- Scribd Conflict is a generic worksheet/graphic organizer that students could fill out on anything that they are reading.
|Internal and external conflict hunger games is a really well done slide show (with video clips) that explains internal and external conflict using clips from the Hunger Games.|
|Conflict in literature is a nine minute narrated slide show of the different types of conflict. There are video clips (no noise on them) to make it a little less boring.|
|5 types of conflict is a 5 minute narrated slide show with lots of pictures and an interesting narrator.|
|7 types of conflict is shorter (2 minutes) and has picture only, no narration, which actually makes it less boring. It's a decent intro to the concept.|
- Mosaico Writing 6 Types of Conflict explains six different types of literary conflict with movie examples for each. Most of the movies are R so it’s more of a teacher help than a student help.
- Slide Share Types of Conflict is a quick overview of the four types of conflict.
- Lewis k12 has a variety of posters, handouts, and worksheets on conflict in literature for both elementary and middle school.
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